MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Loretto ruined what could have been a nice little celebration for Sale Creek on Thursday at the TSSAA Class 1A state volleyball tournament at Middle Tennessee State University.
Sale Creek (40-8), appearing in their fourth tournament and the title match for the first time, were victimized by a constant offensive attack and the potent Lady Mustangs rolled past the Lady Panthers, 3-1, to claim the title in impressive fashion by scores of 25-17, 19-25, 22-25 and 18-25.
“We thought we were ready for the match and wanted to beat them since they beat us first,” senior hitter Madysun Steele said after the match. “We won the first set and when they tied it 1-1 it was like the match was starting all over. We felt like we could play with them.
The fact was that Loretto, which beat Sale Creek 3-1 in both team’s tournament opener, began a power move at the get-go and never relented. The Lady Mustangs had four players with double-digit kills – Mary Beth Cotton (19), Raven Chance (11) and Shelby Ridgeway and Karly Weathers, each with 10. Loretto had a combined 61 in the match.
Sale Creek struggled to keep up. Steele had 20 kills and Sydney Gibson added 19, a combination that supplied a majority of the team’s attack all season. The Lady Panthers’ kill total was 51.
“Loretto was definitely more consistent us today and they just kept pounding,” said coach Debbie Hill, who completed her 38th season coaching. She has spent 50 years at the North Hamilton County school as a student and coach.
“This was our fourth state tournament and we finished fifth, fourth, third and second. I’m happy for the girls and it was a great season,” the coach added.
Sale Creek had a 70 percent attack rate in the first set, successfully hitting 12 of 17 attempts. However, the Lady Panthers finished the match making 42 of 91 for 46 percent.
Steele and Gibson went into the title match with 70 kills each. Steele’s total went to 90 and Gibson’s 89 at the end of the day.
Loretto’s opening percentage was 47, but the ended with 50 percent on 43 of 85 attacks.
Sale Creek’s attacks go through setter Jayda Perry and 5-foot-4 senior was brilliant again in the most important match in school history. Perry had 44 of the team’s 49 assists and pushed her tournament total to 226.
However, that stat didn’t stop the flow of tears in the Murphy Center hallway when the title round ended.
“I feel pretty bad,” Perry said. “They were really strong on the right side and they played the same in the first time we played them. And, we did too.”
Loretto had an answer to Sale Creek’s leading up-front weapons. Brooke Buttrum registered a match-high 49 assists, including 17 in the third set when the Lady Mustangs (34-10) took a 2-1 lead.
In the key category of digs, the Lady Panthers, who lose six seniors, collected 71 with Avery Cox (16) and Kayla Phillips (12) accounting for 28.
Conversely, Loretto had 83 digs and place five players in double figures, with Buttrum leading with 18 and Cotton close with 17.
All those number advantages for the Lady Mustangs led to a jubilant trip home.
The Lady Panthers were feeling their oats in the opening set, breaking away from a 12-11 lead by scoring eight of the next 10 points to build a 20-13 advantage. Loretto put up four straight points – Bailey Brown had two kills and Cotton one – in the mini-spurt.
Steele had a steal and block in Sale Creek’s four-point run and coupled with a Loretto error reached 24 points. A Loretto error produced the 25th point.
The Lady Mustangs then began their comeback march that overwhelmed the Lady Panthers.
With the second set tied 6-6, Loretto unleashed a 9-1 run for a 15-7 margin. Sale Creek was within 22-19 later, but the Lady Mustangs got the final three points on Weathers’ kill, Brown’s slap and Cotton’s ace.
Sale Creek battled in a face-to-face showdown in the third set and the scored was level at 20-20. A closing 5-2 spree gave the set to Loretto.
Two sets down. One to go.
Loretto opened with four straight points. Nursing a 17-11 lead, the Lady Panthers closed the gap to two points with a 4-0 run – Steele and Gibson each had a kill. The Lady Mustangs were up 21-18 and Cotton scored three points and a Sale Creek unforced error resulted in the other point.
“For sure, Loretto had the most power and they played smarter than we did,” Steele said. “We didn’t make the shots we needed to make. But we did great things this season. It was amazing. We just needed one more win.”
What did Sale Creek need to do to change the outcome?
“I don’t know,” Perry said. “We didn’t do the basics and made some stupid mistakes.”
Reagan Ayres – 2 kills, 4 digs, 1 block
Sydney Gibson – 19 kills, 3 digs, 5 blocks
Lillie Morgan – 3 kills, 7 digs 1 block
Jayda Perry – 5 kills, 44 assists, 9 digs, 2 blocks
Kayla Phillips – 2 kills, 1 assist, 12 digs, 2 blocks
Madysun Steele – 20 kils, 1 assist, 9 digs
Avery Cox – 3 assists, 16 digs
Allison Smith – 5 digs
Ruthie Parks – 6 digs
Shelby Ridgeway – 10 kills, 1 assist, 6 digs, 3 blocks
Bailey Brown – 8 kills, 14 digs, 3 blocks
Mary Beth Cotton – 19 kills, 5 assists, 17 digs, 1 block
Brooke Buttrum – 3 kills, 49 assists, 18 digs
Karly Weathers – 10 kills, 11 digs, 5 blocks
Raven Chance – 11 kills, 1 assists, 1 dig, 3 blocks
Jaden Ezell – 10 digs
Jenna Huntley – 6 digs
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)